Thoughts On Being a Writer

Charles Bukowski on Being a Writer



so you want to be a writer?

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

-Charles Bukowski



I have had such an ambivalent relationship with this poem. Don’t laugh. I know it’s weird to have a relationship with a poem. We all have our quirks. Allow me to explain.

When I was an undergrad, I found these words so captivating, so lofty and pure, that I internalized the words as a summary of my own aspirations and ideals. But then the day came when I found myself face-to-face with a blank screen and a blinking cursor, and I realized–Dear God! I realized I was forcing it.

After dozens of peer reviews, hundreds of assignments and thousands of pages, I had lost my voice in a crowd of others. I suffered an existential crisis, sent myself adrift in the world with down-trodden spirits and half-formed hopes of finding another trade. I realize that even though Bukowski was arrogantly flippant in his sprezzatura approach, he was absolutely right about one thing. 


That fire, that need to create, it has its own life, it feeds on different things. As an artist, it’s up to you to find that balance.

BlairSelfieI earned my first pay check as a writer around the age of seventeen. I clocked in and out of my job as a junior reporter using a paper time card. We printed the paper from a warehouse once a week.

The printing press was an ancient, finicky machine that seemed fueled only by the constant grumblings of the newspaper mechanic. In the summer, when the doors to the warehouse were left open to the street, he became a fixture on the sidewalk in his oil-stained denim overalls, mopping his brow or smoking the occasional cigarette.

We had just transitioned into the new millennium, but the days were still long and hot. The town remained small and quiet. High ceilings carried the lazy conversations of locals through the halls. Sun-filled and semi-serious, with two mentors to guide me, it was a wonderful place to practice my writing. Over those two summers, I grew to love the smell of newspaper and freshly printed ink, which has a certain je ne sais quoi about it.

The archives contained papers dating back to the Civil War, and stacks of more recent editions sat neatly bundled in the attic. On those lazy days, my inner monologue rolled through the language of the past as I replicated my favorite portions of the newspapers – by hand – to be curated in the town’s sesquicentennial edition of the newspaper.

Everyone gets his or her start somewhere, but it’s with the help of others that we truly grow.



Blizzy Blair
Blizzy Blair

Blair Casey is an amateur hiker, perpetual note scribbler and news junkie. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with her husband and two cats.

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